COLUMN: Trump, conservatives shift narrative from social injustice to ‘respect for our country’


The president and other conservative voices have consistently, and effectively, distracted the public from the point of kneeling during the national anthem. From the start of this movement a clear effort has been made to discredit the message it has been promoting­—the fight against racial injustice. 

By making this an issue about the troops, respect for the flag or the National Anthem, Trump and those like him have given the American people an “out” to ignore what players, like Colin Kaepernick, have been trying to say. 

They shifted the narrative so much that Shepard Smith, a Fox News host, even had to remind viewers kneeling players were not attacking the flag.

The importance of stressing this point is monumental because it’s the easiest way for Trump to create a new narrative. It’s a way for him to make this his own, by making it about patriotic disrespect and how players should be fired.

“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem,” Trump tweeted on Sept. 25. 

He ignored the fact that kneeling has everything to do with race. 

Race relations and racial injustice were always the point of Kaepernick’s protest. 

Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate on the San Francisco 49ers, said the two decided to kneel, instead of sitting, after talking to a retired Green Beret. They made a change to be more respectful, not less. They made a point of respecting the wishes of a former special forces member.

That fact always gets conveniently forgotten and this is not the only way people are trying to discredit this peaceful protest. 

One method being used to discredit the efforts of athletes to bring attention of social issues is by saying they are out of touch with the average American. 

Tomi Lahren, a popular conservative commentator is an example of this method, tweeting, “How dare Trump disrespect those poor NFL underdogs making millions to throw a ball!” 

Being an athlete does not remove you from racial injustice. LeBron James, for example, although not in the NFL, was born to a teenage mother and grew up without a father.  His wealth and success didn’t prevent someone from spray painting a racial slur on his garage in May. 

It is vital that Americans, whether or not they agree or disagree with the protests to know why they are choosing to kneel. 

It is the responsibility of the news media and of prominent American figures to reinforce this clarity. They cannot allow the president, and others like him, to shift the narrative and change the purpose of these peaceful, respectful protests. 

One day people can get past their suppositions and bias to understand why players would be willing to protest in this fashion. It’s my hope that people who have never and will never have to experience the injustice and prejudice that others have to live with begin to gain some understanding.